When news drops that a very important player is on the road to recovery, the usual reaction is tempered jubilation. With Vladimir Tarasenko doing more activities on the ice this week with the St. Louis Blues, my feeling instead resembles a tempered stress reaction.
Here’s the thing. Tarasenko is a vital piece not only this season, but for the next three seasons. He’s the backbone of the Blues scoring attack, making them a much better team year in and year out. The fact that they have managed to collect at least 9 goals from ten different players this year is remarkable-and also much needed. I don’t think it’ll happen again next year.
Since Tarasenko is so valuable, and since the team is faring decently on offense without him this season, there’s no real reason to rush him back. It’d be quite foolish to rush him back, and have him re-injure a shoulder that has been a pesky asshole for the past few years.
When he had surgery to reconstruct the shoulder in late October, the timetable for a return was at least five months. It’s important to reaffirm the part that reads, “at least.” There was no negotiation there, according to General Manager Doug Armstrong and the doctors. The five month mark would be the end of March, not February. But there was Armstrong on Tuesday saying Tarasenko looked ahead of schedule and could return before the end of the season.
Army says news is all positive on Tarasenko, who continues to skate. No timetable but belief is there’s a decent chance he returns before the end of the regular season. #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) February 19, 2020
So, he’ll be reevaluated at the end of March and get into a game before the end of the season, which is on April 4 in Colorado-who happens to be one of the chief competitors for the Central Division right now. This is one of those “hope 100% of all the messy shit goes well” scenarios. Tarasenko would need an ace checkup, start taking contact in practices, and then jump into a game in the heat of another Stanley Cup chase ... do I have that right?
This sounds like something that could go terribly wrong, and let me document the different worries and reasons for you (takes large pull of coffee and heads for the keyboard):
*If Tarasenko hurts this shoulder again, it could cost him his career, or let’s just say 25-30% of his overall effectiveness. That sure would suck.
*Tarasenko’s teammates won’t hit him like the other teams will, obviously. Can we bring in a couple visiting players to throw a shoulder into #91? That’s the only way you will know, but what if that goes south?
*Inside of a week, he’s going to be able to transform from sitting on my ass watching “Red Heat” for five months to competing in an NHL game that could decide playoff slotting. That sounds far-fetched.
*Remember playoff hockey and how brutally physically it is? Remember when I complained about knowing the details about player injuries? Well, the entire league knows about Tarasenko, so great balls of fire, they’ll be targeting him.
This is common sense, but if you were wondering how much Armstrong is weighing his team’s chances on Tarasenko being ready, check out The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford’s next tweet:
Army says unless something changes with health updates on Tarasenko between now and Monday, Blues would only be interested in hockey trades, not rentals. #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) February 19, 2020
You can almost hear Bon Jovi raging inside Armstrong as he spoke to the media: “It’s MY LIFE! It’s now or never, we ain’t gonna live forever!” At least when he’s talking about Tarasenko and this team’s enigmatic goal-scoring tendencies. While you can never pull trades off the table, I doubt Dougie Boy is trading Jordan Kyrou and a first rounder for two months of Chris Kreider or Mike Hoffman.
I don’t like this “go broke with Tank or go home” strategy.
Armstrong said whether #stlblues are active for a forward or not depends on report he gets on Tarasenko. Sounds like he believes 91 will return this season. Possibly sooner than they hoped but not certain on that, yet. If DA finds out 91 won't return, that changes everything.— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) February 19, 2020
So we are hinging the playoff hopes on a guy who has underwent two MAJOR SHOULDER SURGERIES?!!? As Colin Farrell once said in a movie called “Seven Psychopaths,” that’s just great, man. Just fucking great! (For the people who don’t like cursing, that’s a direct pull from the screenplay, so deal with it)
Does anyone else see the moronic nature of this? As a friend and strong hockey mind messaged me on Tuesday night, “who in their right mind would want this?’ He was talking about rushing Tarasenko back and forgoing all potential big trades in the process. Remember, his checkup was late March, and the end of the season is early April. It just doesn’t add up.
Repeating as Stanley Cup Champions is great, but what if you don’t get there and lose Tarasenko-and his large salary-for another chunk of a season in that pursuit? This isn’t baseball or badminton. He takes one big hit and it’s all over. Remember the end of the 2016-17 season against Colorado? Tarasenko took a nasty hit, dislocated his shoulder, and the game basically could have been forfeited. Do the Blues want that on April 4 against Colorado ... again? I sure as hell don’t.
I’d like Tarasenko back as much as the next person. He’s a game-changer. The man steps on the ice and is literally a smoking gun for the other team and its coaching staff to worry about. They have to adjust for him and his abilities. You can’t acquire that at the deadline. Tarasenko would help this team a lot. But a 65-75% Tarasenko wouldn’t help them as much. It wouldn’t help the Blues to rush him back, see him get hurt badly again, and lose him for another extended period of time.
While I was against trading big time for Kreider, if it keeps the team from rushing their star winger back-and Armstrong truly wants to go for it this year-then by all means make that trade. Preserve your smoking gun and load up for another run.
I am sure some commenters on here and the Twitter couch “experts” will tell me I am nuts and should instead write about average wind gust speeds or bird spotting areas in the Missouri forests. Logic isn’t a preferred dish for sports fans. Anatomy and physiology aren’t ideal either. But it’s simple here. You rush Tarasenko back and you could lose him for good, or a long period of time. He’s 28 years old and has three years left on his contract, so be wise here. Six year olds trade or treat their toys poorly all the time.
Be smarter than a six year old, Armstrong.